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In many respects, the sixties were a watershed decade for the world. The war in Vietnam, the new British musical revolution let by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the peace movement and above all the Civil Rights movement thoroughly changed the political and moral landscape of the United States and the rest of the world.

The musicals were still being made, but not with the same frequency as before.  They had dark undertones such as West Side Story.  Even the Sound of Music was set against the backdrop of Nazi aggression of World War II.  One of the best musicals ever made was the remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Pygmalion.  Moreover, to this day it remains very popular being played repeatedly on the television and on the stage.


The comedies were more slapstick with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin trying to copy Bud and Lou or perhaps Stan and Laurel but never with the same flair and spontaneity. The Apartment (1960) by Billy Wilder was a tragic-comedy well crafted by the master.  During my travels, I have seen many movies that I had seen before in languages that I did not understand.  A few movies retain their originality when dubbed into another language and the Apartment, The Manchurian Candidate and Bonnie and Clyde qualify for that honor.

The number of Westerns produced in the United States was drastically reduced.  There were some big budget movies starring John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Richard Widmark and James Stewart.  The most notable, while not necessarily big budget was True Grit (1969) starring Katherine Hepburn and John Wayne.  That role gained John Wayne his only Academy Award. The most expensive Western was The Alamo (1960); Starring John Wayne, Richard Widmark and a host of old time favorite supporting actors. Another successful Western was the historically inaccurate Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which thanks to Paul Newman and Robert Redford, portrayed two small time hoods as Western heroes.

However, the Italians picked up the slack and produced a tremendous number of Westerns.  In the sixties, television was not very popular nor was it highly available in Southern Italy. On average, the Southern Italian families saw two movies a week.  There was a great demand for the Western format.  The most talented filmmaker was Sergio Leone who made stars of Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cliff among others.  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) made him an internationally known director.  The Italian Western format was somewhat different from the American format.  Indians as marauding tribes did not figure in these movies.  The movies were mostly dramas about good and evil similar to the American Western dramas, except they were more violent and unbelievable.

There were a few good dramas.  Notably Easy Rider (1969), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Dr. Strangelove (1965), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Guess Who is Coming to Dinner (1967) which tried to redefine the racial relationship between white and black America. Dr. Zhivago (1965), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) were successful historical dramas.